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2018 book recap & 2019 reading challenge

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So this is it, welcome to the new year! Listening to this song by Motion City Soundtrack just after midnight is my annual tradition as I welcome the changing of the calendar. This year I was extra anxious, because I had nearly completed my 2018 book challenge, and everything else that I wanted to read next would fit the 2019 prompts that Dani and I had chosen.

Last year I managed to read 104 books, which is absolutely a record for me. (That many books, and I still managed to miss a few categories in the challenge. Grr.) I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite books as we gear up for the next challenge!

My Own Devices: Unsurprisingly, this was my book of the year. Dessa is one of my favorite musicians, favorite lyricists, and the writing in her first memoir is unsurprisingly lyrical. It examines the science of love, and if it’s possible to use science to fall out of it, and what to do when the person you’re in senseless love with is also part of your rap crew.

Marlena: This book was recommended to me by two friends, and I’m so glad they did. It’s the story of a woman looking back on her murdered best friend when they were growing up in rural Michigan, running amok and hanging out with the proverbial bad crowd. It’s told in alternating timelines – mostly in the past, with some modern day reflections, and I read it in about two days.

Broad Band: Did you know that the internet was built by women, and that women were the original computers? Even though I work in tech, I truly did not – I’d never really thought about the origin of the word “computer,” or how things were built. Claire Evans tells the stories of some of the most important and influential women in tech, and I haven’t stopped talking about this book ever since. (There were three people who got this for me at Christmas.)

Dark Matter: HOOOO BOY. I found this book while looking for books described as similar to Maybe In Another Life, which is my favorite book, and even though it’s a bit more sci-fi than I usually tend toward, it is incredible. It’s also set in Logan Square, where I spend a lot of time, so it was fun to picture the locations the characters would find themselves in. It made me think a lot about the ethics of things like the multiverse and cloning – you know, just casual topics.

Tell Me Lies: The cover of this book spoke to me, and I checked it out of the library without really even considering what it was about. Turns out it’s about a girl who continually tries to make a relationship with a man who clearly doesn’t care about her. Tina said that this book is for a particular audience, but that that audience would love it, and I agree.

Wintergirls: Clearly, I trend toward enjoying stories about self-destructive women. Laurie Halse Anderson is such a great writer, and the Wintergirls are two girls who bond over their eating disorders until one of them dies, and the other is forced to reckon with her feelings about her friend and her illness. I’d meant to read this for years, and I thought it was really well-written, and certainly didn’t glorify anorexia or bulimia at all.

Sharp Objects: This was actually my first Gillian Flynn book, and I really loved it. The writing feels dark, and the story certainly is – a journalist goes back to her hometown to look for connections in murder and missing girl cases. The protagonist is a cutter, drinks to medicate her depression, and I appreciated the familiarity in her coping mechanisms. I haven’t seen the Showtime series yet, but I aim to binge it soon!

For 2019’s challenge, we had brainstormed all year, noting prompt ideas and reading lists in our shared document. During roommate Christmas at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (oh my gosh, so amazing, it’s a must visit in Chicago) we reviewed everything, cut out categories from last year that we hated (goodbye, Nordic noir!) and determined the 2019 challenge.

Do you do reading challenges? How do you force yourself to make it through books you hate?!

January 3, 2019
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2018 reading challenge

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2018 reading challenge

It’s little surprise that I love to read – just check out my Goodreads feed or my Instagram for a taste of what books I’ve picked up lately. Last year, Dani and I discovered the PopSugar reading challenge, and we thought it would be a fun way to read different books (and make a pretty spread in our bullet journals.)

Toward the end of last year, we decided to make a 2018 challenge of our own. Over the last few months of 2017 we started noting down categories or prompts we saw on other lists, or ideas we thought of as we walked around Chicago. In December, we sat down and culled it to a list of 50 prompts, thinking that 50 books in 52 weeks was a pretty good read rate. We then added a 51st prompt to pick a book for each other to read, because we do have pretty diverse reading tastes.

I thought I’d share our challenge here in case you’re looking for some creative prompts to mix up your reading and want to read along with us! I have a shelf on Goodreads where I’m cataloging the books I’m using for the challenge, and at the end of the year, I’ll probably do a recap post.

This will probably mean that my formerly-quarterly book club review posts might get more frequent, so get ready for lots of recommendations!

We’re also making notes with ideas for next year’s challenge, so if you have any suggestions for prompts, let me know in the comments! Check out this printable Pinterest graphic (it’s sized perfectly for a bullet journal, so you can print it out and paste it in if you, like me, are too lazy to draw a pretty page for all the challenge prompts :))

2018 reading challenge

What do you think of the prompts? Any suggestions for our reading challenge next year?

January 7, 2018
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monthly roundup no. 3: june 2017

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I can’t even believe that June is over so fast. It’s usually my favorite month – the heat is starting to ramp up, there’s a lot of time for beach trips and sunscreen, and the excitement of road trips and travel is fresh. I’m on the way to Memphis now, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. If you’re ever heading that way, be sure to visit the Stax Museum and Central BBQ – they’re both must-sees. Between distributing snacks around the car and getting excited about all the barbeque I’m going to stuff into my face, here are some of my favorite links from the month!

I love blogging and I’ve spent quite a bit of my life doing it! But sometimes it’s hard to find the authenticity in it anymore – things feel so curated between influencer networks and affiliate marketing and monthly income posts. I’ve been reading Venus Trapped In Mars for years, and she wrote about the same thing this month, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

I’ve spent the last couple of years barking about The Hold Steady and how great they are. This month, they took over Chicago for a weekend and I finally got to partake in one of their greatest traditions: the show-ending stage invasion. Check out this video for a great shot of my awkward dancing, and Dani, I’m sorry that the confetti will never leave our house.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been working on rebranding my blog – eek! None of the content will change, but I’ve never felt super connected to the blog name. Sure, I am a northern girl, and I love the north, but it was sort of just a throwaway I picked years ago when I first started. To work on new graphics and themes, I’ve been raiding CreativeMarketthese shapes are a sneak peek of the new feel!

I love being a digital nomad and things are becoming easier and easier all the time for people like us. Estonia wants to make things even easier. They have a system that allows you to become an “e-Resident” – this is a great article with more information on what the process is like, and what it means to become an e-Resident of a country. You don’t even have to visit (but that’s part of the beauty of being a nomad!) If you’re a digital nomad, or want to become one someday, I definitely recommend checking this out.

Zubaz hooked me up with a package of amazing legwear a few weeks ago, and I have always loved them. The more I wear them, the more I want to wear them. I’ll do a full post soon (including maybe a giveaway!) but they’re what I’m rocking in the car today. The comfiest travel pants ever.

Last week, I discovered slam poetry. I mean, I’ve always known what it is, of course, but I never sought it out. Amazon had recommended a book for me (Depression & Other Magic Tricks, do they know me or what?) which saw me going off to YouTube to find that author’s “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” poem. At first, I rolled my eyes a bit like “ugh, spoken word, woof…” and then I found myself in a vortex of amazing performances. The cadence similar to much of the rap and hip hop I love. Another favorite: “Ode to My Bitch Face.”

Zenfulie’s website isn’t updated regularly, but it’s one of the few mailing list emails that I read every week. Written by Sesame Street’s lead UX designer, it features great creative writing, short stories, and zodiac horoscopes. I highly recommend subscribing and reading every Sunday.

I’ve been reading voraciously lately – you’ll get a pretty full rundown on Monday of what I’ve been reading since the last update. Right now I’m reading You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I’m a bit late to the party on it, but halfway through, I’m loving it. In addition to the book, I’m also using the Best Self journal in an attempt to continue shifting my negative thoughts. A week into using it, I do like it a lot. Even though I might struggle on some days to think of three things I’m grateful for as soon as my 5:30 alarm goes off, it’s pushing me to think more positively. (I did receive a Best Self journal for review, but I truly do love it.)

You’ll Be More Successful Once You Stop Believing Anything Is Permanent, and that’s something I keep having to remind myself. It’s a principle in both The Four Agreements as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, and this post from Jessica Moorhouse is a great reminder that even if your life doesn’t look like what you expected, you can still have a great life.

 

What are you reading around the web this holiday weekend? I’m all ears!

June 30, 2017
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10 best things that happened in 2016

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This year was a hot dumpster fire, right?! 2016 as a whole was not great for a lot of people I know – and honestly, it wasn’t my best year ever. But, there were a few things worth noting, and in the interest of my ongoing quest to stay positive, here are the ten best things that happened to me this year.

  1. Hey New York City, I Love It When You Turn On Your Lights: I had a lot of really great trips and experiences this year, but the one that was the best was the trip I took to New York a few weeks ago. I went with a few of my best friends and made a ton more friends – oh, yeah, and saw my favorite band play four nights in a row. As a bonus, I also got to see Laura Stevenson for the first time, as well as the precursor band for The Hold Steady, Lifter Puller. (And got a Lifter Puller shirt, which I barely want to take off.) I also ate a lot of pizza, had amazing conversations with an author I have long loved who is also a fan of the band, and just being around people who love the band as much as I do (after almost 10 years of having no one to talk to about them) was pretty cool.

Read more…

December 31, 2016
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